Breaking in Dr Martens – The Myths


This post doesn’t exactly fit in with the regular theme of this blog, but this is something I really want to write about and set a few things straight. Having recently been struggling with a very stubborn pair of Dr Martens boots, I have spent some time reading through tips and techniques for breaking in Dr Martens online. Trusty Google provided me with lots of sources of information and lots of crazy suggestions. I tried various things but I ended up taking them to a professional and I quizzed him all about the dos and don’ts of breaking in your boots. As it would turn out, many of the things people suggest online are actually bad for your new Docs!

1. Water is a no-no!
A common tip I see instructs Dr Martens wearers to wear their new boots/shoes in the shower to get the leather wet then wear them all day until they are dry. Supposedly this will soften the leather and help them conform to your foot. Please DO NOT do this to your Docs! This tip only works with leather army boots that are constructed entirely of leather. Dr Martens are not 100% leather, other materials are used to built these fashion staples. The insole beneath the removable inner sole is a mix of products, including cardboard. If you get your Dr Martens soaking wet, that insole is going to disintegrate and you’re going to have very uncomfortable boots. You can also end up breaking down the glue and the stitching may rot. Your Docs can handle being wet on the outside but the inside should stay dry.

2. Heat doesn’t help.
Another tip I’ve seen is heating up the leather to help it stretch – whether it be using a hairdryer to heat up trouble spots or leaving your shoes outside in the sun all day. Guess what? Heat shrinks leather! Heat also draws all of the moisture out of the leather which can result in cracking if you don’t condition the leather well. So don’t leave your boots in the sun, in the car or in front of the fire. If you do get them wet from the rain, leave them in a warm room to dry but not right in front of a heat source. Extreme heat and extreme cold is going to compromise the construction of the shoe. The last thing you want to do is spend lots of hard earned money on an awesome pair of boots then ruin them in the process of trying to break them in.

3. Hammertime.
I have seen many people suggest that you beat your Dr Martens with a hammer or mallet. This tip is quite unnecessary. Does it really sound like a good idea to take a hammer to your new shoes? I think this one is just common sense. Don’t partake in Dr Marten abuse. Put the hammer down.


The things you should do.

Just wear them. Start off wearing them for short periods while you’re at home. As soon as they begin to hurt, give your feet a break. You will be able to build yourself up to wearing them for longer. Your feet will get used to them. If you feel a blister coming on, give your feet a break straight away. Like learning to play guitar, you don’t play until your fingers bleed because then you can’t play. You want to build up little callouses on the areas of your feet that need them. When wearing your new Dr Martens out and about for the first couple of times, take a second pair of shoes with you just in case your feet get sore. You can wear a couple of pairs of socks but one pair will also be fine – don’t cause yourself any unnecessary discomfort by layering up multiple pairs of socks. Your boots will conform to the shape of your foot over time. Be patient. You can stuff them with newspaper overnight or for a longer period to prevent the leather from shrinking back when you aren’t wearing them. This worked like a charm with one of my pairs of Dr Martens 1460 boots, but the stubborn pair I mentioned at the beginning of this pair wouldn’t stretch at all with just newspaper, no matter how tight I stuffed them.

If you are really struggling, take your Dr Martens to a professional. Your boots were an expensive investment, a professional shoe repairer will only charge you a small fee to stretch your boots for you and they have the knowledge and proper equipment to stretch your Docs without damaging them. They can also stretch your Dr Martens in places that you can’t. Almost everyone will have some discomfort where the tongue is sewn into the boot, that will get better with normal wear. But if your pinky toe is being squashed because the toe of the shoe is a bit narrow, a professional can stretch the toe area to be a little wider. They can’t make them any longer though, so make sure you buy the correct size in the first place. A couple of days with a professional can make a world of difference. My stubborn pair fit much better now after two days of being stretched by a professional and it only cost $10.

Basically, wearing good quality socks, wearing your Dr Martens as frequently as you can and covering up any painful spots with bandaids is the best advice. Professional stretching is also the best option if you can’t break them in on your own. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you decide to shower with your Dr Martens.

20 thoughts on “Breaking in Dr Martens – The Myths

      • I just bought a pair of cherry red velvet Dr. Martens and they are so rigid! I was wondering if these are the type you had professionally done because if they are, then I have hope before I give in and return them.

    • Thank you! This is the best most comprehensive article I’ve found after looking a long while. I’m glad I read this before I got in the shower!

  1. I just bought my first pair in 20 years — got a brand new pair second hand from a friend for a STEAL. Couldn’t pass up the deal. MAN, I forgot how much they hurt when they weren’t broken in. I think I’ve gotten old and tender since my last pair. LOL I’ve been reading all that “advice” on the net too, and I’ve ignored all of it — especially stuff about water and alcohol! ALCOHOL ON YOUR LEATHER! Ugh.

    Anyway, thanks for these. It’s nice to have some sane advice around. I’m wearing mine, but I think I might take them to to a shoe repair place shortly. I think I’m too impatient to wait.

    Thanks again!

  2. i just bout my new docs. luckily its softer leather than my old ones, but after having those for 18 years… I really forgot how much they hurt at the beginning. im guessing it wont be as bad to break in, but the inside it still stiff, even if the outside is soft.

    your tips are just common sense, and the google tips… the ones that don’t match what you say…. are just for idiots. ok. maybe some will help soften, but certainly also damage.

    I must admit that I dont give my feet much of break though. I soldier through the blisters. DONT make the mistake did though! firstly I work ankle socks one day, totally forgetting I had bough a new pair of boots and that I would wear them…its like walking barefoot in them… NOT GOOD! and secondly. give it a rest if it hurts is very good advise!!!

    oh , by the way… what I do at my desk at work, I often move my feet about and push down and up and side to side on the chair to bend abit more. its made it comfier (if I didn’t have blisters already hahah)

  3. Hi! I don’t know if you’ll see this since this post is kind of old but I bought a pair of doc martens a few months ago and I ended up buying a size smaller than my usual shoe size cause the docs in the size I usually wear looked big and had space in the shoe. Now that I’ve been wearing them for a while, I’ve noticed that there’s weird creasing on the outside of both sides of the boots, one on the side where my baby toe is and one where the big toe is. I’m worried the shoe stretched in those places to make room for my feet (so I guess I bought a size too small after all?) and I hate the way it looks.

    Do you recommend getting them stretched?

  4. So having the part where the tongue meets the shoe be too tight is normal? Gah. I sent back a pair of docs because it pinched SO bad but the rest of the shoe fit. A size up would have been too big. I have high arches and the pair were canvas 1460s: do you think it would have been possible to break those puppies in? They were so cute (the floral ones)! I kinda don’t get why they can’t be made to NOT pinch if everyone has the same problem.

  5. Hi,
    must say i love the advice killing (thumbs up).

    My advice to all the people out there with sore feets is to take your docs to a shoe repairer because they can help you the right way with the proper tools for a few bucks.


  6. I recently bought the floral docs and ouch! I thought it was just me. The top of my feet are killing me but I love them lol why do they have to make the tongue so tight lol I’m hoping I break them in soon. I wore them 6 times already and not much improvement

  7. Not if they are canvas shoe repairer wont touch them!! so wot to do with trying to stretch them ive bought the wooden boot stretchers had them in for a week nothing still tight on the top of foot!!! I

  8. Thanks for the insight, I have been wearing my new Ox Blood Docs for two days and already have abrasions on my ankles and heels. I suggest never wearing dress socks with them. I was fortunate with this pair since they were on sale for 40 dollars which took almost 100 dollars off of the original tag. These are of great quality compared to any non military boot I had worn.

  9. Hi! I got my docs around December for my b-day. I still have not broken them in, mainly because I don’t wear them for a long time each day. I think I am wearing the wrong socks as well. What types do you recommend, and I’ve also heard to wear two pairs on each foot. What is your advice? Thank you so much!

  10. Take out the removable insoles for MUCH more toe and wiggle room. Saved myself from shelling out another $100 for a larger size. These boots are made well enough to forgo the padded insoles

  11. I love beautiful shoes, but I don’t understand the need to “break in” shoes. I’ve had lovely gorgeous shoes that fit well and felt wonderful straight out of the box.

  12. I have looked at a lot of sites on Dr Martens there’s a lot of bad information out there I think yours is been very good thank you

  13. Any advice on breaking in sandals? I bought the Clarissa ones. They hurt so much. Obviously I can’t break them in wearing socks!!

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